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'Baby Steps' to bridge the gaps 

Here we go again. Another assault, this time a debutante, downtown, in a square most of us have walked through hundreds of times.

So what do we get? Another call for another commission, this time directed to lawyers, doctors, business people. Another collective cry for more police (fill those vacancies but first increase salaries for those vacancies), safer streets, a more effective, more proactive mayor. We want immediate results. And we want them now.

Another assault to one of our own - in one of our own expensive neighborhoods - and we are offended, we are outraged, we are truly aggrieved. If we’re honest, we’ll admit it: We’re scared because we have no where to hide and it could happen to any one of us.

Crime is crappy. It’s capricious. It gets in the way of our holiday revelry. It’s not fair. We have a right to feel our beautiful, popular city is safe to explore, available to enjoy any time of the day or night.

And why not? We’ve worked hard. We’ve paid who-knows-how-much in taxes. We’ve been led to believe we’re entitled to all these things and more.

We go to community meetings, pick up after thugs in our neighborhoods, give the occasional ride to someone without a car, show up to vote for every election, try to keep our property neat and clean, pay our late fees at the library, write out the occasional check to nonprofits, do a little volunteer work now and then, lend a ladder to the woman down the street.

So at this point in our lives, everything should be hunky-dory, right?

Well, it’s not. We’ve got the education gap, the money gap, the sociability gap, the sophistication gap, the goals gap, the values gap, the perception gap, the honesty gap, the sincerity gap. And gaps mean trouble.

There’s no dearth of gaps. Lately I’ve been reading bits and pieces of Robert F. Kennedy’s Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and his Corporate Pals are Plundering the Country and Hijacking our Democracy -- and I say bits and pieces because it’s hard to take any more than that in one sitting. The clubhouse stories of cronyism and no-bid contracts and duplicitous behavior is so dirty, so disgusting, it’s hard to believe it all.

But with all those moves to enrich the wealthy few, all those breaches of public trust, the most serious rupture in our society - to my way of thinking - is the wasteland of aimless, jobless and clueless people with nothing better to do than pull a gun and threaten people for money. They are the uneducated, ignored, disregarded, neglected elements our our society.

These are the people who have fallen through the cracks between the really smart and the really needy. They are the hooded guys you see standing in the middle of the street working as sentries, keeping lookout for their druggy buddies, a population that former columnist William Raspberry has called our “endangered generation of children.”

Dollars to donuts, these are the guys behind the late-night sorties, the assaults, the attacks.

A few years ago, recognizing the breaches between what we have in our public schools and what is needed before anything good can happen in these schools, Raspberry, a middle-class African American with lots of smarts and a nice easy style of writing, started - as in funded himself - the program he calls Baby Steps. And he based it in Okolona, Miss., his hometown.

Except unlike other educational programs, Baby Steps is directed toward parents because, says Raspberry, “No matter how unsuccessful they might have been in school (all parents) want their children to succeed academically - even if many of them don’t know how to make that happen.”

The idea is to train the parents themselves, as the children’s most effective teachers. To do this Raspberry and company are using the MegaSkills program designed by education consultant Dorothy Rich.

Raspberry has been so satisfied with Baby Steps, so encouraged, that last month he decided to leave his syndicated columnist job of four decades to raise money full-time for the program.

And that’s what I think about when I hear the anguished and very real cries of local citizens at the latest assault in Savannah. Raspberry’s response is not immediate. It’s not sexy. But it is concrete.

I think Raspberry is on to something, and I think if people really want to make a difference in Savannah’s future it might behoove them to pay more attention, more money, more resources to parents. Schools cannot do it all.

We need to teach parents how to teach. We need to teach them how to parent. It’s delicate, I’ll grant you that. But if the right people get involved and if they stick to it I think it might pay off for the city.

It would at least be worth a visit to Okolona to see firsthand what Raspberry is so excited about. Is anyone game?



E-mail Jane at gofish5@earthlink.net







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Jane Fishman

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Connect Today 12.08.2016

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